Fig.1 Francis Le Piper ?16401695 Hudibras’s Discomfiture at the Hands of the Skimmington c.1664-77 Oil paint on panel 232 x 438 mm T00621

Fig.1
Francis Le Piper ?16401695
Hudibras’s Discomfiture at the Hands of the Skimmington
c.1664-77
Oil paint on panel
232 x 438 mm
T00621

This painting is in oil paint on wooden panel measuring 232 x 438 mm (fig.1). As in the pendant painting, Hudibras’s First Encounter with the Bear-Baiters (Tate T00620), the support is a single piece of oak, cut tangentially and with uneven thickness (figs.2–3). It is up to 5 mm thick. The marks left by the tools used to dress the surface are visible on the front of the painting in raking light (fig.4).

Fig.2 X-radiograph of Hudibras’s Discomfiture at the Hands of the Skimmington c.1664–77

Fig.2
X-radiograph of Hudibras’s Discomfiture at the Hands of the Skimmington c.1664–77

Fig.3 The reverse of Hudibras’s Discomfiture at the Hands of the Skimmington, photographed in black and white

Fig.3
The reverse of Hudibras’s Discomfiture at the Hands of the Skimmington, photographed in black-and-white

Fig.4 Hudibras’s Discomfiture at the Hands of the Skimmington, photographed in raking light from the top in black and white

Fig.4
Hudibras’s Discomfiture at the Hands of the Skimmington, photographed in raking light from the top in black-and-white

The grain of the wood runs horizontally. Dendrochronological examination of the pendant painting (Hudibras’s First Encounter with the Bear-Baiters, Tate T00620) revealed oak that could not be dated using standard reference charts. This suggests that the wood is British oak because the established data for dendrochronology comes from trees that grew in the Baltic area.1 ‘L-section’ oak battens (about 30mm wide and 10mm deep) are attached with glue to the edges of the panel, lapping over onto the reverse. The corners of the battens have half-lap joins at the corners. These battens appear to be an original framing device and occur also in the other three panels in this series (The Combat of Hudibras and Cerdon, Tate T00247; Hudibras and Ralph Taken Prisoner, Tate T00248; and Hudibras’s First Encounter with the Bear-Baiters, Tate T00620). Owing to its irregular cutting and the presence of the battens, the panel has developed complex warps and has been subject to minor splitting in the past. All the splits have been rejoined and appear stable now.

Fig.5 Cross-section through the sky, photographed at x320 magnification.

Fig.5
Cross-section through the sky, photographed at x320 magnification. From the bottom: pink ground; pink priming; blue sky paint, which contains lead white, ultramarine, earth colours ochres and glassy particles

The ground over the front of the panel is opaque pinkish brown in colour and about 80 microns thick (fig.5). It is covered by thin, opaque pink priming; in this it differs from its pendant (T00620), which has a pale grey priming. Two other, very similar paintings by Le Piper (T00247 and T00248) have pink grounds but no priming. The ground and priming contain lead white, ultramarine, earth colours, verdigris and glassy particles (not smalt).2 No linear underdrawing is visible with the eye or with infrared (fig.6), but certain features were laid in with reddish brown and green paint, which was allowed to dry before the artist proceeded further.

Fig.6 Infrared reflectograph of Hudibras’s First Encounter with the Bear Baiters

Fig.6
Infrared reflectograph of Hudibras’s First Encounter with the Bear Baiters

Fig.7 Detail of brushwork in figures and sky

Fig.7
Detail of brushwork in figures and sky

Fig.8 Detail of brushwork in sky and figures, with the top batten present

Fig.8
Detail of brushwork in sky and figures, with the top batten present

Fig.9 Detail of Hudibras on his horse

Fig.9
Detail of Hudibras on his horse

Thereafter the painting appears to have been done in one layer, the colours mixed on the palette and worked into one another wet-in-wet on the prepared surface of the panel with bold, vigorous brushwork and fairly thick, creamy, opaque paint (figs.7–9). The paint contains lead white, ultramarine, chalk, earth colours and glassy particles (not smalt).

The painting was cleaned and varnished while on loan to Tate in 1955, and has needed no major treatment since entering the collection in 1963.

November 2003